We Interview New York Times bestselling author Chris Brogan

Chris Brogan is a digital marketing advisor who has worked with brands you know like Google, Pepsi, Disney, Sony Electronics USA, Comcast, Microsoft and many more. He is a professional keynote speaker as well as the New York Times bestselling author of 9 books and counting.

We discuss some of Chris’s latest articles and ideas

It’s Time to Rethink What People Need to Learn

It's Time to Rethink What People Need to Learn

Customers Don’t Want Content – They Want a Better Path


Quit Your Bullshit


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Here’s a Full Transcription of Our Interview With Chris Brogan

Jonathan: Welcome back folks to the WP-Tonic Show. It’s episode 297. Yes, they’re going quickly folks. And I’ve got the immense pleasure, a really special guest, somebody that intellectually I think highly of and I’m sure this is going to be an interesting discussion, and that’s Chris Brogan. Would you like to quickly introduce yourself to the listeners and viewers Chris?

Chris: Well, sure, and thank you so much for having me. It’s such a pleasure. I have been, how do I want to describe myself? Well, I’m a business adviser mostly Digital Marketing and I’ve been an author and a keynote speaker for the last bunch of years. What I mostly talk about in some way or another is how do we use tech to drive a better human interaction. So, no matter what sort of fluff on the edges is, I’m looking for how do companies use all these wonderful Gee-Whiz tools to make a better relationship, a better customer experience journey and how do we, you know how do you treat my mom better. That’s really ultimately what I want most companies to do.

Jonathan: Yeah, treating your Mom is really, really, well, it’s important actually.

Chris: I think it’s a good measure.

Jonathan: Yeah I do. Kim, would you like to quickly introduce yourself?

Kim: I would love to. I am Kim Shivler. I’m a soft skills instructor and I also do Instructional Design consulting and I just loved what Chris said about the Mom effect because a lot of my training is with people my Mom’s age and I took my Mom to Social Media Marketing World a couple years ago just to inundate her into what the possibilities are for the future. So I love that. Thank you, Chris.

Jonathan: Thanks. And before we go into the discussion, I just want to quickly talk about one of our sponsors who’s really generous with their sponsorship of The WP-Tonic Show, and that’s LifterLMS. And, LifterLMS is one of the premier WordPress plugins to help you build a Membership Learning Management System that can effectively help you promote and sell your course, your training, whatever you are looking to help a specific group or community. And they also offer a discount. The token is WP-Tonic. You’ll find the links on the WP-Tonic website and in the show notes and just tell them through Twitter that you appreciate them sponsoring the show. It’s really appreciated.

Now Chris, I been reading some of your great latest posts. I thought one that really resonated with me, “It’s Time to Rethink What People Need to Learn”. Can you give a quick synopsis of the post and the main thing you were trying to put across in that post?

Chris: You know it almost ties into how the introduction fell out because one of the things I find in the world of business is that we are still kind of building everything as if we live in a factory system, as if we live in a system where there are massive offices in massive office buildings everywhere and where everything is done at a very grand scale. And yet, the three of us and/or the majority of people we touch in any given day work in very small or modular businesses or we have sort of a, what do they call it, like a portfolio style business where we have multiple different projects we’re always working on.

And, I think that when we look at how we’re teaching people what they need to learn for education in school and all that sort of thing, it’s strange to me where we’re still spending our time. Part of this came down to an interesting discussion about should kids still need to learn Moby Dick and/or various classics and I said, “Well why?” because most people’s answers are sort of tinged with emotion or tinged with sort of that sense of tradition. Whereas the lesson inside of a 600 plus page book could easily be explained in a 4-minute video or a 20-minute Netflix show or something.

The payload of what needs to be learned sometimes gets married to the transmission method. So, for instance, many schools, especially in the United States, only now are having this argument that they should or should not continue teaching cursive handwriting. And people of a certain age are all saying, “Oh, oh this is terrible. What a shame. Why would they not?” Because the answer is because we all have these candy bar rectangles of glass that convey our words to other people and we may not need quite often the concept or the ability to write cursive. Cursive served a purpose when hand printing was too slow. That’s all it did. There’s no other technological value to knowing it. So, these kind of seeds Jonathan are what I am looking at but I think nothing should be sacred. I think we should be looking at it all to say what really has to happen to move business, life, society, systems forward and why are we teaching the things we’re teaching.

Jonathan: Yeah, your article really resonated with me. I don’t want this show to be about me. It’s about you, your ideas, but I think I’ve got to tell you this. The article really resonated with me because I suffer from moderate to severe dyslexia. The good thing about dyslexia is that I have a very unique way of looking at things which has great value. But, as a child, I was punished quite severely for my lack of writing skill.

Chris: Right.

Jonathan: And mentally. And also belittled for my lack of spelling ability.

Chris: Right.

Jonathan: I think anybody that has a reasonable conversation with me would say that I’m interested in ideas, in knowledge, in the pursuit of reason. So, it kind of really resonated with me because I think a lot of people get kind of stuck up with things in tradition and there’s nothing wrong with tradition but it’s about what helps society move forward, progress whatever you call that really. Would you agree with that Chris?

Chris: Sir Richard Branson also shares your dyslexia challenge and Sir Richard runs over 400 companies and plans to, himself, be in space in months, not years. So, I would say that it’s probably likely to believe that some of the things we thought were a vast disability maybe aren’t and maybe what really has to happen is we need to learn about various new interfaces. My son is a very highly functioning autistic child, highly functioning. So he is very smart, very able to communicate and what not but he, as most kids with autism do, he has sensory issues.

He has certain social issues that are a hurdle. He would very willingly leave the house without pants. It’s kind of my joke. But, we also built a facial recognition computer together yesterday. So, you know, there’s that. And I think that what should anyone take from this conversation, Jonathan and Kim? I think that what everyone should take is that it used to be, “We must do this. We must plug in the same way. Everyone must connect this way because that’s how the factory built it.” Well, the factory is us now and so we can connect in whatever way that we can still find our way to the interaction we want to have and that doesn’t mean that we can all do our own thing because that’s cacophony. But, maybe we can find harmony with atypical methods instead of the tried and true.

Jonathan: Before I let Kim ask a question, I’ve just got one other. It’s a rather large question. I apologize. It’s linked to this article. Basically, we’re in the 21st century. Obviously, education has become, how to put this simply, really quite crucial, a really social barrier for a lot of people to be able to express their abilities, especially in America and other countries. Universities in some ways have become more and more important as a way of allowing you to move forward. But, also there are forces that seem to be moving and there’s semi-irrelevant. Got any insight what’s going on Chris?

Chris: So, as someone who never completed his formal education at University, I’ve done okay for myself. I would say that there are benefits to acquiring a traditional degree. But I would also say that there’re a lot of times where the, you know what turned me off finally from finishing and completing my education was I was in a course where the stuff they were teaching was 6 or 7 years old and I was thinking, “How in the universe is this going to help me go forward?” especially technology material. And, I thought, “This is crazy.” And when I brought it up they said, “Well, why don’t you design your own courses and we’ll make sure with you that this is the appropriate way to learn it?” And I thought, “So wait, so I’m going to pay you the same amount of money to teach myself.” And that was the end. That was, you know, “Hey thanks. I get that this is a business but I’ll catch you later.”

So, Jonathan, I would sort of argue against that, but only because I think that we’re in a world now where opportunity and sort of where like a technocracy, where our ideas if we can execute them and acquire income and meanings from them, I don’t think it matters as much. I mean, look behind me and what you see is the framing of a factory building. My home is a destroyed factory building and it’s destroyed in so far as industry got smaller and smaller and smaller and outsourced to other parts of the world where that’s all they can still do in some cases. But, in this space, I create intellectual property and in the space, I can re-engineer marketing materials, content, entertainment, whatever. And so I think, you’ve asked such a big question, I don’t …

Jonathan: I apologize. It’s ridiculous really.
Chris: It’s okay. I’m not anti-college or anti-university. I am very anti-thinking that is the one true ring to rule them all. I think that anyone can play at the picnic if they brought a dish that anyone else wants to eat.

Jonathan: Yeah, I think that’s the, what’s going on online around education and private course makers is interesting. Kim, have you got a question?

Kim: Of course I do. I’m so excited. I completely love where we’re talking about what needs to be taught and there’s this part of me because I hated Math and I became a technologist because I could take Programming instead of Calculus, who loves to say that. Do we, however, is there of value? And I am not a big believer, even though I come with a Master’s Degree and had a family that believes that, I’ve changed my thinking a lot. Is there still a value though in teaching things like Moby Dick etcetera, for the thinking skills, for the analytical skills. We’re going to approach this because it’s not that I come out of college with knowing everything I need to know, but I come out of high school or whatever with an analytical skill that I can take on to my next level. Is there value there?

Chris: Spoken like a great Instructional Designer.

Kim: Thank you.

Chris: That was the number one push back to my blog post. That was the number one pushback was, “You’re getting it all wrong Chris. It has nothing to do with the white whale. It has to do with how do we extract value from that story.” I pushed back and they said, “Okay, except that find a group full of 20 somethings who want to talk about, you know, ancient whaling practices.” So, maybe let’s go extract that value from the Adventure Time cartoon series or The Last Airbender anime. You know, something vaguely within the of people of a certain age. So, I still argue against the target material but I agree and more so I very strongly want to emphasize, my only regret about not actually formally completing any particular college was I would love to have Journalism skills that I don’t have, that are very basic rote skills I don’t have, to be a little bit more, to be better at sort of rounding reportage . I write from my opinion. I don’t write a well-rounded piece. I would love Sociology training because everything in the world changes but human nature tends to be relatively the same, we just express it differently.

So, there are a bunch of, well, and think about Programming. I would love to better understand what algorithms mean and are. Reading the book, “Principles” by Ray Dalio, he was doing algorithms with paper and pen and so when computers came affordable he was like, “Oh!” and then he started making billions. He said, “I wasn’t really great at Math but I was really good at algorithms,” and I thought, “I want to get good with algorithms.” So, I think yes. I think there are some incredible skills that we can and should want to acquire. I think it’s when we separate the source, you know, the ingredients list let’s say, or the frame from the end product. I’m a big fan of analogies and a lot of times if I start down the road of analogies and someone doesn’t get it, I throw the whole analogy in the trash and start again. That I think is what needed also to be taught, is how to abstract one layer. That’s all.

Jonathan: Right. That’s great. I think we’ll go for our break folks and when we come back we’re going to continue this great discussion with Chris Brogan. We’ll be back in a few moments folks.

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Jonathan: We’re coming back, folks. We’ve had a great discussion with Chris Brogan. On to another post that you’ve done recently, “Customers Don’t Want Content They Want a Better Path”. I thought that was an excellent post. Can you give us a quick synopsis of what you were trying to get across in that one?

Chris: I never try to be the naysayer in these kinds of moments but for every time people get really Gee-Whiz about a technology or a methodology, I think I’m always seeing it and going, “Oh no, this is why we can’t have nice things, you marketers you, you’re ruining it.” And content marketers are now these people who come up with these incredible like, “Which Game of Thrones Character Are You?” attempts at Marketing or you know, “Seven Ways That You’re Like A Bagel” and all this stuff. And all I’m thinking is, “If I’m sitting here trying to buy a new bed,” my daughter’s bed is atrocious. I went into her room to pull a plug out of the wall for her, put my knee on her bed and almost went to the floor. And I said, “How come you didn’t tell me?” So I need to evaluate a bed. Am I going to go look to see which one of the bed companies has an incredible story about how funny Mariah Carey is or am I going to find the one that teaches me which bed might be great for my daughter? Right? So, I think that Content Marketing is not bad. I think bad Content Marketing is bad and I’m out there trying to push the fact that there’s so many humans being pushed into chairs saying, “Go make me content slave,” who are just creating it for the sake that I think that we now must reassess all this and really think through our customer experience journey. What will they really need? What materials will really be useful? And sure we could be fun, but how are we going to deliver something that’s going to give the customer their best chance of choosing us in their evaluation?

Jonathan: Would you agree that a lot of this has to, you know, the consequence of being driven by Google and their unseemly like of long-form articles. Is this really driven by SEO and the dominance of Google in the reality of business in 2018?

Chris: I feel that companies that allow Google to dictate their Marketing methods are doomed for very short-term gain. I feel that the companies who we most talk about at events and we most wish to emulate are not working at the behest of Google and that they’re winning in spite of Google’s rules. I think that what happens is that we folk tend to see other people tell us, “This is what Google wants and you know they’re the search engine,” and so, we kind of fall into step. But I mean, my gosh, anyone in this group who’s watching this, feel free to run your SEO against my site and realize what a stupid idiot I am and I still make money and I still can pay for some lunches sometimes and I’m not eating sawdust most days. And I can tell you, I don’t do anything at the behest of Google as much as I can help it, except mobile first, mobile everything. Beyond that, as far as content goes, I think that as much as we keep trying to say that long-form is important, I feel like humans aren’t reading what they don’t want to read. And so, making much longer content of what they don’t want to read is only pleasing a robot somewhere.

Jonathan: In respect for your time Chris and we said about 20 minutes. Are you okay to continue for, let’s say another 10?

Chris: Sure. Let’s make it work.

Jonathan: Right, that’s great. Kim, have you got a question or comment?

Kim: I have lots. First, I really, I want to thank you for your feedback on mine and I’m with you. While I do believe that we should teach certain things to make people think, I think cartoons are just as well as anything else. I’m not saying we have to teach Moby Dick. In fact, in my days, back when I used to do stuff like that I was known for doing things like putting Romeo and Juliet on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Chris: Oh nice.

Kim: I had to teach it and it made it relevant. So I loved your response there. When you, I, gosh. The new one, bad content isn’t, you know bad reading isn’t good for people and I love that. Can you see a way that we can position this to people to actually, other than what you just said, see them break out of writing 1,500-word articles because someone told you Google wanted it, is actually going to help your business? Because you always help, I always appreciate what you help businesses with. What would you tell a business who comes to you and says, “My SEO guy said I have to write this 1,500-word article because that’s what I need.” How would you position it to them on really making it get to the next level, not about bad Content Marketing?

Chris: I would really press my SEO guy to show me my revenue as it applies to that or not. I would say that, you know, the number one statistic I look at in my business is my wallet and also subscribers to my newsletter and if those are working in an upwards trend, then I don’t really care. You know, someone said to me, “Do you know your Alexa rating is terrible?” And I said, “I didn’t know that site still existed, so sure, Okay.” I said, “It’s really weird but I checked with my bank and they don’t care what their rating is either.” So, I have that sort of response to that. You know if someone is forcing you to write 1,500-word articles for the website, go ahead and write them. I mean, whatever who cares. Pay some monkey to do it, but that’s not Marketing, that’s satisfying a search engine and to me, that’s like you know, sure maybe you need to mow the lawn but that’s not really trying to get someone over to the house and have a nice meal. So I think that what comes after, maybe it’s yes and like improv. Maybe it’s, “Yeah, sure, write your 1,500-word article,” but don’t think that that makes a customer. You’ve got to walk through the customer journey. So, to me, there’s a really simple 5-point way that I look at a customer’s journey.

It’s awareness, evaluation, purchase, on-boarding and then retention or referral. Right?
That’s the very five simple steps. So, an event happens and then, you think of your awareness, “Oh crap, my tire popped. Who replaces tires? Oh, Sullivan Tire. Okay.” And then, you start evaluating, “Well, Sullivan’s like 5 miles away. There’s a local guy. But I don’t know the local guy. At least I know this is a bigger company.” We evaluate, right? Third, purchase, how easy or hard is it to purchase? You get to Sullivan Tire and they say, “Well, you’ve got to fill out this form and that form. We really need to run for this. And oh, by the way, it’s going to take us a while to get your tire because it’s not a very common tire. It’s going to take us like 5 days.” And, you’re like, “This is just a tire. I’m not trying to invent a spaceship here.” That’s purchased. And then, onboarding. How do you make me feel after I’ve put the money in? You know here’s the money, now what happens? So, great Learning Management Systems are great at signing up the person and saying, “Here’s Module one.” What happens if I don’t do anything with Module one? How nice is your email at pestering me to say, ‘”I know you logged in. I don’t see you actually did anything. What can I do to make that better for you? Here’s a little video. This is where most people start. Here’s what happens when you buy a course and you don’t do anything with it. I’m just like you.” Right? That’s that.

So to me, and then, last is retention and referral, “How do I keep you with my system or product or whatever or how do I earn a referral for the quality of the work I just did?” I have been raving about this company that just got my passport to me super, super fast because I made a mistake and let it expire. The company’s called RushMyPassport.com. I’m not making a dime from them. Their website is ugly. Their Marketing is ugly. The best thing they have is an insane customer experience journey. They tell me every single step of the way, “Hey Chris, here’s where you are in the process. Here’s where you are now in the process. We haven’t heard this part yet we’re waiting. Oh, nope here it is. Now we’re ready.” I was so aware the whole time. They communicated the whole time. I felt no discomfort. I forgot to send them a check that they were going to give to the Federal government on my behalf. I call them in a panic, “Ahhhhhh!” They’re like, “Happened three times already today sir. Don’t even worry. Can you give us a credit card over the phone? We’ll just go get the money down the street. All handled.” No problem, right? That’s Marketing. Not your 1,500 words on a website. Their website is the ugliest website I’ve ever seen full of stock photos of random white people I don’t know. It’s not interesting at all. It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever looked at. But their service, I’m raving about it to WP-Tonic. Right? So, that is Marketing. So, my answer to your question, that was the longest answer ever. Write the 1,500 words if the boss tells you to write it but then go do Marketing because that’s not Marketing.

Jonathan: Thanks for that Chris. You put it really well. On to another story, another post. “Customers Don’t Want Content” Oh, we’ve done that one.

Chris: Oh, we did that one?

Kim: We did that one.

Jonathan: We did that one, yeah. There’s another one. Oh yeah. “Quit your Bullsh*t” Yeah, they’re colored links. I could tell when I was reading this morning reintroducing me for my original read. What’s this about then Chris?
Chris: Jonathan, some days I should not be allowed to own a computer. There are days where someone should have like you know sort of like our current US president, someone should come along and say, “Don’t let this man touch this computer right now.”

Jonathan: That’s his Marketing plan though, isn’t it?

Chris: Yeah. It feels that way sometimes. I think there is just, you know, again, in this concept of a customer experience journey, I think there’s just so many times where people phone it in. They don’t quite do what they’re supposed to do. They don’t deliver on the promise. They don’t just use the same old boring stuff. I’m just stunned by how many people’s version of Marketing is Copy Paste Marketing. I have a post set up, a hidden page, sorry, on chrisbrogan.com called chrisbrogan.com/roundups. So, every single human that sends me a request to add my thoughts to their great round-up post gets that post. Chrisbrogan.com/roundups, read it for yourself. It basically says, “I think they’re sh*t”. Don’t write these posts. They’re terrible and you’re a lame boring person for even trying.”

I say it marginally nicer than that but not much nicer. And, Jonathan, the reason is .again, the first time I ever heard this expression, my buddy Chris said it to me, but when he said, “This is why we can’t have nice things.” I think there is no more appropriate, I think all marketers should be branded with that, not tattooed. I think a burning physical pain brand in the lower back like a tramp stamp, I think we should have that as a reminder for how bad human marketers can be to other humans. And so, I just don’t want people to write junk. I don’t want them to write sameness because the other problem with other people’s bullsh*t is it makes them more susceptible to ignoring my attempt to reach someone and try to be much more human with them. They’re so jaded by the time they get to me that they’re like, “Oh, sure you care about me, you jerk.” Right? So I just can’t abide that Jonathan. At this point, I’m just trying to murder other marketers. So, the water is a little bit more open for some of us who want to try harder.

Jonathan: All right. We’re going to wrap up.

Chris: What a good ending.

Jonathan: I’ll leave it to Chris’ discretion if he wants to continue after the podcast for 10 minutes but that’s down to him. But we’re going to stop the audio part of the podcast part of the show. If you really want to support the show folks so we can get really interesting guests like Chris on the show, give us a review on iTunes. It really does help the show and speak out to our couple sponsors. That really helps re Twitter, whatever means you find to touch base with them. Chris, how can people find more about you, your thoughts, your ideas and what you’re up to?

Chris: If I haven’t scared everyone away Jonathan, I guess
just swing by chrisbrogan.com. My biggest request is grab my newsletter because that’s the easiest way to find out quickly if you feel like we have something in common and if I can be helpful.

Jonathan: That’s great. And Kim, how can people find out about what you’re up to?

Kim: You can find me at kimshivler.com and I read Chris’s newsletter every week so I recommend everybody get it. It’s fun. Let me say that. It’s fun.

Jonathan: It really is. We’ll see you next week folks when we’re going to have somebody doing something interesting with WordPress or online in general. We’ll see you next week folks

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